We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we continue Series Two of the Eighth Doctor Adventures with The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, written by Paul Magrs and featuring the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith). Let’s get started!
Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!
Mervyn Urquhart and Humphrey Mims are en route to the Lake District on a mission. As they arrive at the Bygones Guest House near Lake Grasmere, it becomes clear that they are not what they seem, as Mims refers to Urquhart as Second-in-Command Urtak. Inside the hotel, the Doctor and Lucie are having dinner and debating whether the Doctor was really with Wordsworth during the writing of his poetry. He admits to having misjudged the landing once again, but not by much; he has brought them to 1984, and Lucie has somehow managed to bump into her “Aunty Pat” again—if an older version of her. It seems the TARDIS has taken a liking to Aunty Pat. Meanwhile Urquhart and Mims check in; Pat is working the reception desk, and gets them a room. Mims notices the necklace she wears, a gift from her husband Trevor. Urquhart says that he and Mims work in the music industry; Pat suggests that they may be here for the annual Folk Festival at nearby Kendal—she met her husband there. Urquhart says that he knows her husband, and that they are former colleagues. Pat calls for Trevor, but before he arrives, Mims and Urquhart begin to argue. Trevor meets them and is dumbfounded; he then becomes hostile toward them, and says they are from his former record company, Satsuma. Mims asks Trevor to help them make a comeback, but he refuses; he is content with his life here, and does not want to revisit events of twenty years ago. He insists he is not the same person anymore. Urquhart is not dismayed; he intends to change Trevor’s mind. Pat escorts them to their room, and Trevor swears they will not take him back without a fight.
The Doctor is surprised by Pat’s success, remembering that Lucie had once said Pat never amounted to much; Lucie admits she also never knew that Pat had owned a hotel in the eighties. Pat, meanwhile, recognizes that the Doctor and Lucie both look the same as her last meeting with them, ten years ago. Lucie mentions a rumor of a monster in Lake Grasmere, but the Doctor says they have come to visit Pat and not to investigate. Pat admits that time travel still confuses her—Lucie technically hasn’t been born yet—and Lucie admits that she doesn’t recall Pat owning a hotel. The Doctor tries to stop her, but the damage has been done; Pat realizes that in the future she won’t be happy or successful, and tells Lucie to stop telling her about the future. Lucie tries to change the subject, and asks to meet Trevor, but Pat says he is in a bad mood, and describes the encounter with Mims and Urquhart. Trevor was once a folk singer with a few hits, and perhaps the remix album—which Mims and Urquhart have just released—will bring in some income. Still, Trevor seemed scared.
Later, Lucie asks the Doctor about Pat, and why she never mentioned this part of her life. They are interrupted by the arrival of Mims and Urquhart; they hide and eavesdrop on the duo. Mims mentions a suspicious room beneath the lounge bar; he also says that Trevor goes to the lake every evening to drink supplies. They leave for the lake, walking in the moonlight. Lucie decides to follow them, intending to meet the Doctor back here at midnight.
At the lake, Lucie watches as Urquhart and Mims are met by an alien—a female Zygon, named Grakus. She reports seeing their target earlier in the evening. Urquhart tells her to summon the beast, as he and Mims also need “supplies”. Grakus uses a device to summon a creature from the catacombs under the lake. A sea creature—a Skarasen—rises from the lake; Mims draws lactic fluid from the creature for the three Zygons—for that is what Mims and Urquhart are as well. Disgusted, Lucie steps on a twig, and is seen by the Zygons; Mims recognizes her, and Urquhart grabs her. They refuse to let her go.
Later, Lucie finds the Doctor in the hotel bar, which is closed. She drinks half a pint of vodka at once, which shocks the Doctor; she insists that Urquhart and Mims are normal people, but that she and the Doctor must investigate the cellar. The Doctor agrees, and goes downstairs with her. Inside the cellar, they find Trevor encased in a machine. The Doctor recognizes it as a body-print machine, used to allow a shapeshifter to mimic someone’s form and personality on a continuing basis. He looks well, and is only hibernating, but he could have been here for years. Aunty Pat, it seems, is married to a Zygon! Lucie wants to tell her at once, but the Doctor opts to leave it for morning.
In the morning, the Doctor and Lucie meet Pat at breakfast. She talks briefly about Trevor, who still considers himself a radical, even refusing to have a car because of its effect on the atmosphere. Lucie tells her that something terrible is hidden in the cellar; Pat tries to let the topic go, but Lucie reveals that Trevor is a Zygon. Pat stuns them both when she says that she already knew; in fact, she turns the conversation and says that they are showing prejudice against aliens. The Doctor insists that Zygons are evil. Pat calls Trevor in to challenge that view, and tells him that they know about him, and are unhappy about it. However, she denies knowing anything about the real Trevor in the body-print machine.
When Trevor arrives, the Doctor challenges him, but Trevor insists he’s not planning anything. He insists he has been here for years, and loves humanity, but especially Pat. He reverts to Zygon form to prove that Pat doesn’t mind his true form; she hugs him to demonstrate it. Finally the Doctor acquiesces, and apologizes for Lucie’s rude behaviour, saying that she has not been herself today. Trevor leaves to return to the reception desk, with Pat reminding him to change back to human form.
In the hotel room, Urquhart says that the Skarasen has returned to the ship under the lake, and Phase Three can begin. He sends Mims to retrieve a Zygon device from Pat, but first they are interrupted by the arrival of Lucie…who changes into Grakus. She describes her encounter with Pat downstairs, and explains that Warlord Haygoth—that is, Trevor—is in love with Pat. They conclude that Trevor is about to betray them. Urquhart decides to accelerate Phases Three and Four, and Grakus decides to do something about Pat.
Downstairs, Pat hears the remix of Trevor’s old song, “Falling Star”, on the radio, and calls him to listen in the kitchen. Mims comes as well, but she tells him he is not allowed there. He apologizes and changes the subject to Pat’s unusual necklace. She admits that Trevor gave it to her at the folk festival in 1979, and she has worn it sense. Mims tries to snatch it back, shouting that it is crucial to the Zygon plans; but Pat cries out in pain, and he realizes it is fused to her flesh. With no choice, he renders her unconscious and takes her with him.
Later, Trevor blames himself for her kidnapping. Lucie offers him a drink, and when he refuses, she drinks it herself. He tells her that the necklace is a Zygon device. The Zygons are based five miles away—or three by underground travel—at Ullswater. He admits to being reliant on the Skarasen’s lactic fluid, which is why he couldn’t take Pat away from here. He had arranged a tunnel from Ullswater to Grasmere for the creature, and programmed it to obey him above all others. He tells the Doctor that he expects the Zygons have some plan that requires him as their Warlord. The sun is setting, and so the Doctor takes them to find the tunnel; Lucie expresses distrust of Trevor.
Meanwhile Urtak and Mims revert to Zygon form. Urtak debates with Pat about her love for Trevor, and about the validity of love in general. Finally Urtak tells Mims to render her unconscious again. Mims admits—to Urtak’s disgust—that he may have experienced some human emotions. Urtak decides they must hurry back to the ship; they have been away for ten years, and it may have repaired itself by now.
At the tunnel, Lucie yells ahead several times, until the Doctor stops her. He allows her to lead the way in, hoping the Skarasen is away. Trevor mentions that there have been sightings of it in the area in the past; the Doctor notes that Lucie doesn’t recall this from last night’s conversation. When Lucie changes the subject, Trevor explains that the ship is damaged, and explains how the Skarasen feeds the crew. Lucie inquires about the Doctor’s past defeats of the Zygons, but he claims to have forgotten how he did it. The Skarasen approaches, and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to confuse the electronic half of the beast; Lucie accuses him of leading them to their deaths.
Mims and Urtak watch the tunnel on the ship’s scanners, but note that Grakus is also vulnerable in human form. Although Urtak would sadistically allow the creature to hurt them, he sends guards into the tunnel to bring them in. Meanwhile, Trevor reverts to Zygon form and declares himself the Warlord Haygoth, in an attempt to control the Skarasen. He sends it away, but not before it strikes Lucie and dashes her against the wall. She is bleeding, but refuses to let the Doctor help her. Mims arrives to capture them, and welcomes the Warlord home.
Pat wakes up near Urtak, but fails to appreciate the ship. As Mims arrives with captives, Pat tries to warn Trevor, but Urtak silences her. She asks to see her husband before the prisoners are taken to cells, but Urtak refuses, and says that Haygoth is confused and needs their help to think clearly. He has them placed in a cell, as Trevor reverts to human form in an insult to the other Zygons. The Doctor demands to know where the real Lucie is, and tells Grakus to stop pretending; he has known since last night that she was an imposter. Grakus reverts to Zygon form, but retains her injury, which Mims notices. Grakus trades arguments with the Doctor, who tells her that there are other Zygon ships on Earth; she tells him that Lucie and Pat are safe, as there is a body-print chamber on the ship. Grakus leaves.
The Doctor begins getting them out of the cell with the sonic screwdriver. As he works, he tells Trevor they will have to discuss the real Trevor’s fate. Trevor says the real Trevor has been dead since a motorcycle accident in the late sixties; only his body is kept alive in cryogenic suspension. The Doctor apologizes for making assumptions, and pledges to help the Zygons get offworld in exchange for Lucie and Pat. However, Trevor is sure they won’t give up so easily—they plan to adapt the Earth to their own needs by accelerating global warming. Their early forays into the music industry have given them capital to invest into heavy industrial projects around the world. In addition, they have biochemical warheads on the ship; Phase Five of the plan will detonate the warheads in the atmosphere for further gases. However, they need the device Pat wears in order to activate the torpedo tubes.
Mims reunites Lucie and Pat in front of Urtak, and they update each other on the situation as they know it. Urtak reveals that he needs the necklace, but it remains fused to Pat’s flesh. Lucie begs Pet to surrender it, and then tries to rip it from her; finally, Lucie reverts to Zygon form, and manages to pull the necklace free, although it nearly kills Pat—and in fact, it leaves Pat’s throat torn open. Elsewhere, the Doctor denounces Trevor for giving such a dangerous object to Pat; Trevor admits his foolishness, but could not take it back once it was given. They are interrupted by an alarm; Urtak announces that Phase Five will begin, and orders the crew to arm the warheads. This means they have obtained the necklace, which may have killed Pat; Trevor says that if Pat is dead, he can’t care what they do to Earth. However, the Doctor still cares; and he takes Trevor with him to the control room.
With the necklace in place, the warheads are awakening. The injured Pat calls to Lucie for help, but this Lucie is still the Zygon duplicate. Another alarm sounds; power levels are too high and are overwhelming the ship—as Grakus explains, only the Warlord would know the right settings. Before Urtak can send for Trevor, he arrives, still in human form, and rushes to Pat’s side. The Doctor has him put pressure on her wound. Pat thinks she is dying, and asks the Doctor if Lucie was ever real; he assures her she is, and promises to save her. She says she sees disaster, death, and darkness around the Doctor; and then she falls quiet. The Doctor tells Trevor she is dead.
Urtak urges Trevor to focus and launch the torpedoes. Grakus adds to the temptation, telling him he can have as many human women as he wants—even Lucie, if he wishes. The Doctor encourages him to take the necklace and allow the Doctor to hide it; but Trevor says that it would fuse with the Doctor as with Pat, and he would become another target. He appears to give in to Urtak, saying there is nothing here for him now. He sends the Doctor to the body-print chamber to wake Lucie, against the others’ protests; then he tells the Doctor to leave with Lucie and warn Earth—and the rest of the galaxy—of what is coming. The Doctor leaves, and Trevor reverts to Zygon form. He tells Urtak that he has triggered the warheads; then he summons the Skarasen, allowing Urtak to believe he is sending it to kill the Doctor and Lucie. He orders it to attack.
With difficulty, the Doctor rescues Lucie from the body-print machine, just in time to hear the Skarasen roar. They run as the ship starts to shake. Meanwhile the Zygons are stunned to see the Skarasen attacking their ship. Urtak begs Haygoth to call it off, but he refuses; reverting to human form, he says that his name is Trevor. He reveals that he sent the Skarasen to attack the warheads; they accuse him of betrayal, and remind him that the warheads are primed. He knows; when damaged, the warheads will vent into the ship. Urtak and the others sting Trevor to death.
Lucie is confused when the Doctor tells her Trevor has saved the planet; she never knew he was a Zygon. They will discuss it later; for now, they have about thirty seconds until the tunnel floods. They run from the inrushing water…
Trevor refuses to die from the Zygon stings; he tells them their time has passed, and they will soon be dead. He insists their race has done enough damage, and doesn’t deserve to live. As the controls overload, he dedicates his actions to Pat; then the ship explodes.
At the hotel, Lucie brings the Doctor some tea. In a few hours, the guests will awaken, but there is no one to make breakfast. The Doctor reveals that the machine in the cellar has crumbled to dust, along with the original Trevor’s body. Lucie muses about Zygon Trevor’s death, and wonders how they will tell Pat; the Doctor prepares to tell her that Pat is dead. Before he can do so, Lucie pieces together what he is about to say; but she denies it, and insists that Pat must be alive, as Lucie will see her as late as 2007. The Doctor explains that the Web of Time is resilient enough to allow some events to be changed—and as Pat was known to live a quiet, unobtrusive life, history may be able to miss her. This upsets Lucie even more, but the Doctor says that Pat was a heroine. Nevertheless, Lucie wants to stay and wait, so the Doctor sends her to bed.
The Doctor takes his tea to the terrace to watch the sunrise. Once alone, he tells Trevor to come out of hiding in the bushes. He is glad to see Trevor, but Trevor wishes he could have saved Pat. He plans to use his last power to disguise himself in human form again; to the Doctor’s surprise, he can do so even without a body-print, and create a form that will endure for decades, but only if he assumes the form permanently. He is content to be human, though; and when he changes, it is into Pat’s form. Thus Lucie will be pleased, as her memories will remain intact. Trevor/Pat asks the Doctor not to tell her the truth; he reluctantly agrees.
We’re back on familiar territory this week: this is an overwhelmingly sad story. Chiefly this is because it brings personal tragedy to Lucie, although she ends the story unaware of it. I expect this will be the last we see of Lucie’s “Aunty Pat”, but I could be wrong; stranger things have certainly happened. At any rate, this is Pat’s second appearance (her first being found in The Horror of Glam Rock), and from her perspective this story occurs ten years after the previous encounter. She is fully aware of the Doctor and Lucie’s time-traveling situation, although she finds it hard to believe, given that they are approximately the same ages as in the previous story.
The story has some elements in common with Series Nine’s The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion, in that the Zygons have the potential—not always realized—to be good and sympathetic characters. This is one of the things I appreciate about Doctor Who: with such a range of characters and scenarios available, sometimes we can see villains being redeemed, and enemies becoming allies. If the Doctor had his way, that would happen every time; how many heroes actively try to save their enemies? Sadly, this story actually deviates from that trait of the Doctor—at one point he comments to Pat that all Zygons are evil. (She corrects him quickly, which is to her credit.) More to the point, this story lays some groundwork for the two-part episode I mentioned; we see Zygons engaging in business and otherwise blending in with human culture, which is later a major part of the peace plan facilitated by the Doctor. Granted, they’re doing it here for selfish reasons—they want to further the alteration of Earth’s climate—but it at least sets a precedent.
Lucie spends most of this story as a captive of the Zygons, and therefore we don’t get much of a performance from her, as the Lucie we see is a Zygon duplicate. Perhaps that’s just as well; she is always awkward where her personal history is concerned. The duplicate, of course, is different enough from the real Lucie to tip off the Doctor; actually, it’s more over-the-top—especially with regard to drinking habits—than necessary, so as to tip off the audience as well. Zygons on television are usually better at mimicking their templates.
This is the first Big Finish audio drama to feature the Zygons, which may account for their less-impressive performance here. Trevor/Warlord Haygoth is fantastic; the others, not so much. Urtak is a caricature mad general; Grakus is just sleazy; and Mims (who almost seems to vanish in the second half of the story) seems as though he will defect to the humans, but nothing comes of it. The flaws are by no means bad enough to ruin the story, but I think they weaken it a bit.
There are not many continuity references here. There are several references, naturally, to the events of Horror of Glam Rock, in which we previously encountered Auntie Pat. The Doctor also mentions his past encounters with Zygons in Scotland (Terror of the Zygons) and London (The Bodysnatchers). The Bodysnatchers, in particular, is a fairly recent story in the Doctor’s timeline, giving the lie to his claim not to remember how he defeated the Zygons due to it being so long ago. Of course, Lucie wouldn’t know this, and her duplicate would be even less aware. While not a direct reference, mention of the Web of Time and its resilience is reminiscent of the Main Range audios I’m reviewing alongside this series; in those audios, the contrary point is made, that the Web of Time is NOT resilient enough to handle the changes being made. As well, although the Eighth Doctor theme is used for the opening, the closing theme is the one used previously in Terror of the Zygons–a nice nod.
Overall: A fairly simple story, but with some major complications for Lucie, although I doubt that we’ll see much come of it in the future. This story is the calm before the storm, I suspect, as it will be followed by the two-part series finale. It’s a bit sad, and a bit flawed, but still a good listen.
Next time: On Monday we return to the Main Range with Embrace the Darkness; and then we return on Thursday for Sisters of the Flame! See you there.
All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below.